I don’t know about you but I feel as if I’m reaching burn-out in the Beijing Olympics. It wasn’t supposed to be like that. I had decided that I wasn’t going to watch it. I mean, the Olympics in a country like China? What about the Olympic Dream?
I do have a bit of an interest in the Olympic Games in general but it’s restricted to things I learned at my father’s knee. He was an entrant in the first Games. Not the ones held in Olympia in 776 AD but the modern edition put on for individuals, amateurs who wanted to test themselves again their peers, in Athens in 1896. He had always argued that the Games should be a four yearly event held in its home town of Athens. I don’t think I was really aware of the Beijing location until the bid for the 2012 Games was won by Great Britain. And then only because cute little David Beckham was involved. He looked so vulnerable in his pale grey suit. I was so wound up in the thought of stripping off his beautifully cut drapery and explaining how ill-advised he had been to cover his body with crappy tattoos that I missed the price tag for the London Olympics. £9bn! When I thought about it I was surprised that the Government hadn’t spun it out to £8,999,999,999,99. At least it would have needed only a single penny to put the total, obviously estimated on the back of a discarded NiQuitin packet, into double figures.
The double figures came soon enough. Hardly had the champagne corks bounced off the ceiling than we were talking about £12bn. Then the talking dried up. Nobody wanted to be welded onto the latest estimates that were leaking out from all sorts of cracks, and putting the figure at nearer £20bn. But, after you’ve blown your first billion, what does it matter? I think reality about the price of the London Olympics struck home when I read that the Beijing version had cost just that. £20bn! And that was with a work force of practically slave labour.
The more I heard about the looming Beijing Olympics the more certain I became that I wanted nothing to do with it. Then a couple of days before they were due to start I read about the massive opening ceremony. Somehow I persuaded myself that I should watch. Just the opening, and then the box would be an Olympic free zone. I thought, like everybody else, I guess, that the ceremony was fantastic. Only spoiled by the tragedy of the little girl with a voice like the proverbial angel. Tragedy because a couple of days later it was revealed that the little angel was a sham. The real owner of the voice was tucked away out of sight because she was ‘too ugly’ and the innocent little girl in the red dress was being used as a political tool.
Then Rebecca Adlington won her first Gold medal with Jo Jackson taking the Bronze. This was followed by the farce of the British relay team ignoring Rebecca and trying to go it alone. With the obvious result. When I was about 14 I was a fervent swimmer. Breast stroke. Not the lunge and plunge way they do it now. I come from a more sedate era which even extended to swimming. For a moment there I was considered hot stuff. I think my father even had dreams of me standing on the Olympic podium. But it was not to be. Adolescence got in the way and that seemed more attractive than the sort of regime needed to get out of the ‘handy’ class and into the competitive. As I watched the swimmers scything through the water I had a momentary pang of regret – and opened another box of chocolates. By now I was not watching the Olympic games quite often. I was further suborned by the prowess of British Quads pulling themselves back into the lead from fourth place.
Becky Adlington was at it again, adding a second Gold medal to her collection in a breathtaking display in the 800m Freestyle. In the background was the American swimmer, Michael Phelps, making Olympic history. The British Team was doing well enough to drag me along. There was the usual misfires of course. Andy Murray decided it was a walk in the park and crashed out at the first test. There was a spot of nastiness between diving boy wonder, Tom Daley and his spinning partner, Blake Aldridge. There was a further bit of nastiness when boxer, Bradley Saunders, professed to be glad to be knocked out of the games and wanted to go home and be with his family. No doubt to the spend the £140,000 he had pocketed to come and represent the Team in the first place..
Hold it! Hold it! I’m getting too involved. I had decided not to watch and now I was making judgments on what was going on. But, of course, there was still Paula Radcliffe to run the Marathon. Things didn’t look too good. Only a couple of months ago Paula had a broken leg and was out of the Games. Now she was there and raring to go. She didn’t need to make excuses. All the commentators rushed to make them for her. Paula said that her main ambition was just to finish the race. You could tell she was kidding us and maybe even herself. She was there to win. The Marathon was due to kick off around midnight, our time, on Saturday. I definitely wasn’t going to watch it. The result would be exactly the same on Sunday morning. But when the time came I had to be out there sharing the agony. She showed the true Dunkirk spirit and finished the course well down the field. And I went to bed at 3.30am. There’s dedication and a true example of the Olympian Spirit.
Sunday morning and the grief of Radcliffe was wiped away by Ben Ainslie showing why we sing ‘Rule Britannia, Britannia Rules the Waves’. After the disappointment of not having ‘the right sort of wind’, on Saturday, our Ben proved the nation’s maritime supremacy with a fantastic win. He was followed onto the podium by a trio of ‘blonde birds in a boat’ who had just swiped the gold. The bikers were going well. Two Brits had made the final and it was just a matter of sorting out the Gold from the Silver. As the excitement simmered down the games moved inside. And I lost a lot of interest. I was buoyed up and happy that Team GB was third on the table of medals and didn’t want to be dragged down. I want to go out on a high. For me that came on Monday morning when the GB Pursuit Team ground Denmark into the boards. With the promise of more gold medals to come will I ever be able to break the spell in the coming week and do some work. It looks increasingly unlikely.
If that little lot doesn’t make you want to swear fealty to the Queen nothing will. You can have the joy of making your obeisances to a pot-bellied, power grabbing politico but leave me out of it!
Hammer Horror legend writes for Den Of Geek every week. Her last column is here.